The Insider's Guide to
the Obscure, the Absurd and the Perverse in Los Angeles
by Anthony Lovett and Matt Maranian
The nineteenth century philosopher Herbert Spencer was playing billiards with a fellow who demonstrated great skill at the game, resulting in Spencer's defeat. The frustrated Social Darwinist expressed his angst thus: "A certain dexterity in games of skill argues a well-balanced mind, but such dexterity as you have shown is evidence, I fear, of a misspent youth."
The prudish and deluded Spencer failed to realize the most important fact about adolescence, which is that any youth which is not misspent on boozing, carousing, and generally carrying on is, by definition, misspent. Anthony R. Lovett and Matt Maranian have demonstrated that they have indeed used their tender years well by using them badly. I cannot speak to the matter of whether their minds are balanced or not, but I will declare that their brilliant writing style makes this guide to Los Angeles and its surrounding regions a treat to read, even if the reader never actually visits any of the places described in this book. My wife Fayaway and I received this book from friends trying to convince to move to the West Coast, and the cornucopia of bizarre places listed here was indeed a factor in our decision to relocate to California.
The strength of this book is twofold. First, the authors interpret, in their own witty style, mainstream sites such as Forest Lawn and Medieval Times Dinner and Tournament. They review Disneyland not as the Happiest Place on Earth, for example, but the site of numerous gruesome murders, accidents, and deaths which would elsewhere be considered natural, but which in the context of the park become grotesque. Irreverent, subversive, and iconoclastic, Lovett and Maranian show that trips to such places can be quite enjoyable, given the proper attitude.
The other strength is that the authors have spent considerable time ferreting out interesting but generally unknown places, such as the Dudley Do-Right Emporium and the Wat Thai Temple. Without this book, we might never have discovered the Chicken Boy Catalogue for a Perfect World, which offers for sale keychains, mugs, underwear and other items bearing the image of Chicken Boy, Los Angeles' own Statue of Liberty! I am indebted to the authors for bringing to my attention Tri-Ess Sciences, which I visit often to purchase paraphernalia needed for the study of protozoa, and for their making me aware of Amok Books, which carries material not readily available elsewhere. Finally, the book made it easy to contact folks who, like my wife and myself, are willing to entertain ideas not sanctioned by mainstream science: I am speaking, of course, of the people at the Unarius Academy of Science, Mutual UFO Network-LA, the Aetherius Society, and the Flat Earth Society.
There are also many places and events which are not artistic by elite standards, but which are brilliant in their own way, such as the incredibly garish Crystal Cathedral, which features "laser beams, disco fog and Siegfried and Roy-style pyrotechnic displays"; Santa Claus Lane, a tourist trap clinging on for dear life by dispensing lobster on paper plates and date shakes; the Madonna Inn, created by Alex Madonna and his wife Phyllis, who designs with "parts of her brain that most interior decorators access only while in deep r.e.m"; and the Cabazon dinosaurs, which the authors describe as being "everything a great American roadside attraction should be: they're big, they're garish, they're stupid, they're completely useless, and they're adjacent to a truck stop diner that serves honey-dipped fried chicken." Whether they are laughing with or at these phenomena, the authors realize that the world would a lesser place without them.
The book also includes information about many of the better sex toy boutiques, bars and restaurants with that extra something, and shops for those seeking "rat skulls, religious statuary, head shop paraphernalia, vintage pornography" and so on. There is no question that living in Los Angeles is expensive; the authors have been kind enough to introduce us to a number of new black holes into which we could pour our hard-inherited money.
The book has also proven useful when we have visitors. We have a wide variety of friends who most would call eccentric or oddball, and this book has provided us with many destinations for these folk. We have taken them to the Camera Obscura in Santa Monica, Frederick's of Hollywood Lingerie Museum, and on the Hollywood Death Tour outlined in this book, which reveals spots associated with the unfortunate demise of many a movie stars. Despite the racy and irreverent tone of the book, however, there are also places and activities which are indeed fun for the whole family, such as square dancing at the Double R Squares, the Roy Rogers and Dale Evans Museum, and silent movies at the Old Town Music Hall. There is something for everyone in this book.
There are a few sites missing from this book, among them the amazing Museum of Jurassic Technology in Culver City, and the Institute for Creation Research's Museum of Creation & Earth History in Santee. The book also needs an index badly, but despite these lapses the book deserves five stars for the pleasure it has given us by merely reading it, and for the madcap adventures it has provided. Read it, and you will never look at LA the same way again!
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© 2007 Hermester Barrington
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